Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ghosts of D&D's Past, Present and Future articles ...

A little late for the xmas stuff ... I know ... but I happened upon these articles via a link from a friend on facebook. I am not an avid escapist reader, I should be probably as they have hit upon some very interesting topics lately. Normally they are a little more video game centric than suits my taste as a very casual video game fan. As for Gonzo ... well if D&D can be equated to a muppet character these days it would be Gonzo because one looks at D&D anymore and just wonders what the hell it is.

From the escapist ... interesting and right on really. The ghosts of D&D past, present and future. Really interesting discussion of the history of D&D in terms of the versions and why certain decisions were made, the effects they have had and where the franchise might be headed.

Past ...

Present ....

Future ...

All in all good articles and they have comments from the likes of Chris Pramas (Green Ronin) and Erik Mona (Paizo, Pathfinder) as well as many of the game designers involved directly in many of these decisions, so worth the read for sure.

I think these articles rightly point out that D&D perhaps has been morphing into something else since 1989 ... I agree with that. I think that what D&D has meant to many people is quite different and it largely depends on your generation. For some (me) its mostly 2nd edition experience, others recall 1st ed as "their" edition and yet others 3.0-3.5. Only the very new consider 4e the version that broke their RPG cherry and sadly for them that was a short lived romance. Who knows where D&D will go in the future but I do know I feel sorry for Mike Mearls. My prediction is 5th edition will ultimately be a terrible failure and that Hasbro will eventually just sell off D&D as all tabletop gaming continues to slide, inevitably towards small press and less and less fat profits.

"The result of this philosophy is that, perhaps more than ever before, gamers are playing different games than the official D&D coming out of the Wizards of the Coast. "What D&D faces now with different editions and old school versus new school, and 3.5 versus 4th edition, it's like the comic book conundrum," Mearls said in reference to the differences between Silver Age Captain America versus the plot of the recent Captain America film. "How do we get all these guys back together, so we actually have real communities, not just a bunch of separate smaller communities, that don't really interact in any way?""

Again I'll say ... I feel sorry for Mike Mearls taking over at WoTC because I don't think they'll ever "reunite" the divergent D&D "community" I think that that egg shall never be put back together again, not with the aid of all the kings men. I think D&D in some form or another is likely immortal, but I don't think you'll get the old timers who are happy to return to nostalgic 1st ed back in with the pen and paper WoW set who grew up on Pokemon and Magic the Gathering and have little remembrance of the days of Thaco. Beyond this so many loyalists were driven away with 4e either from the get go or later in the run (thanks essentials!). The people who liked 3.0-3.5 are happy with what Paizo is doing (or happy to just endlessly play with all that "glut" of stuff printed in the OGL days) that nothing WoTC does will get them back into the fold and the others mostly still just feel violated having bought in on 4e only to have the carpet yanked out half way through. I must admit I'm in this camp as well, having come back to give the "new" D&D a chance and chance it I did for a few years and for a time 4e united an odd mix of miniature wargamers and RPG fans in my group, but with the launch of essentials it just took an already bastardized game into a direction none of us really wanted to go so we dumped it and moved along (like many have apparently done) I think it almost goes without saying that 5th edition is going to have to be the best thing ever to win all these people back. In a way I wonder if this means 5th ed isn't perhaps years off, just to let the dust settle a bit more .. who knows.

Fat profits in gaming will come more and more ... as we all know its just damn common sense ... from video games and anyone in tabletop gaming, be it minis, pen and paper RPGs or board games is going to have to scramble for profits. I'd bet that Fantasy Flight Games continues to thrive, probably Paizo, probably Games Workshop (simply because they continue to license out their products FOR VIDEO GAMES ... lol). Lots of room for mom and pop and very small press folks. I think the digital age does nothing but help those little guys who can survive on hundreds of customers, not hundreds of thousands. The Old School Gaming Revolution (OSR) will continue to do well as us old timers will be waxing nostalgic for decades to come, Paizo will continue to keep Pathfinder fans happy and the bunkers of 3.5 guys will likely remain alive and well. It will be interesting to see what WoTC comes up with to try to win people back ... if they manage it ... it should go down in the annals of gaming history as a true stroke of genius.

To close I'll point out something that really stood out to me:

"The problem with developing such a game was, until this year, Atari held an exclusive license to produce all digital representations of D&D, and Atari had no interest in making games other than what was already in the pipeline. As of August 2011, the two parties have settled that dispute, and D&D is now free to either develop games itself, or hire other videogame developers to make the game WotC hopes will be as successful as Duels is for Magic."

With D&D free to be pimped out for more video games, I think we'll certainly see more titles on that front than we have in years past. If they want more revenue that is the easiest place to get it, and there are tons of studios out there happy to churn out more licensed content product. So I'm sure we'll see more mediocre D&D video games in the years to come. Based on the mediocre 4th edition replete with all its unnecessary, tacky, boring new stuff that got tacked on awkwardly to D&D.

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